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Future of Richmond's Confederate monuments leaves community divided

Confederate Monument Richmond
Posted at 5:07 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 18:29:01-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- With a price tag of over $232,000, Richmond is seeking approval for plans to remove what's left of the city-owned Confederate monuments.

The plans primarily focus on the pedestals as many of the statues were removed last summer by protesters or work crews. The exception is the statue of Confederate General A.P. Hill, whose remains are under the statue.

"We are working with the Department of Historic Resources to make sure that those remains can be de-interred and interred properly, along with the descendants," Kevin Vonck, Richmond's Department of Planning and Development's Acting Director said.

The proposals call for the sites to either be removed entirely or for them to be paved over and turn into a regular intersection, as is the plan for Hill and Stonewall Jackson. Another option, which will be used for Jefferson Davis or JEB Stuart, is transforming the statue's grounds into a green space

Vonck said that his staff recommends approval as it won't impact the history of the neighborhoods.

"It's not in the best interest of the health and welfare of the community, you know, to have these objects remain," Vonck said.

The decision to remove the statues is opposed by groups like the Virginia Flaggers who said in a statement that it is "eliminating any trace of the city's rich history and heritage."

David Zajack-Isreal lives near the Hill statue and is also opposed to removal.

"It's a symbol of what was. Doesn't have to be now, but it once was. We have to appreciate our history. We learn from our history," Zajack-Isreal said.

However, Ninth District Councilmember Mike Jones said that it's time for Richmond to move on from this and said that the removal of the statues can't come fast enough.

"The more I have to hear that it's heritage not hate when I understand the whole nature of these monuments. And what it's rooted in, I mean, is just further traumatizing black and brown neighborhoods," Jones said.

Two other committees that meet in June have to sign off on the removal before it goes to the council for a final say. Jones said that he hopes that they move quickly and finish up in July.

He said that he'd like the sites to become green spaces where people can come together.

"That's what makes Richmond Richmond. That's what makes us one city where everyone can come, even if I'm just going to remind them an avenue to just dream of a different life, right?" Jones said.